Bush is not bad because he is simple
The problem with what the Republicans did in 1998, of course, is that it led to George W. Bush becoming president of the United States. This was, according to both Saletan and myself, a bad thing. Indeed, a worse thing than one would have expected ex ante simply on the knowledge that he was a conservative Republican. Bush's electoral success aside, it still matters to have presidents -- and nominees -- who know what they're doing. The man Saletan has in mind, John Edwards, may well be up to the job, and I think he'll deserve a look in 2008, but he shouldn't get a free pass on the "would this man be a good president?" issue. He, like whoever else runs, should be scrutinized.
George W. Bush isn't just a bad President just because he is simple. He is bad because of
the entire cult of personality that surrounds him and the incompetent people who
are loaded in his administration. In fact, if Bush were surrounded by some of the most competent Republicans in the party today he probably would be tolerable as
president (I'd still vote against him, but I wouldn't fear for our future from
A Democratic George Bush would not result in things as bad as they are today if he were surrounded by some of the most competent Democrats in the party. That was Saletan's point: stop concentrating on finding the smartest guy to be at the top of the ticket. Instead, focus on finding the guy who can get elected who will then hire the smart guys we will need to fix this mess.
John Edwards is an interesting candidate for this role, especially since he has the advantage over Bush of actually being smart as well as simple.